CHAIN Model for Supply Chain Leadership

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From the conversations in “From Source to Sold” book, it’s clear that there is no ‘one path’ to success in the supply chain industry. Co-authored by international best-selling authors Radu Palamariu and Knut Alicke (Amazon – Business Leadership), “From Source to Sold” brings together insightful stories from 26 of the world’s leading supply chain executives, CEOs, and thought leaders.

Contributors to this book have varying personal and professional backgrounds. They lead supply chains through varied experiences in different cultural and geographical contexts. 

Yet, there are some pronounced themes running through each of their leadership stories, which offer important insights into what it takes to be a successful supply chain leader. These themes can be neatly summarized through what we call the CHAIN Model for Supply Chain Leadership, or Chain (C-H-A-I-N) which stands for: Collaborative, Holistic, Adaptable, Influential, Narrative.

See below excerpts extracted from the book.

COLLABORATIVE

A supply chain leader needs to build relationships, not simply manage transactions. Everyone is viewed at every stage of the end-to-end value chain as a colleague with a common cause. Within their own team, leaders foster a culture of collaboration. That means encouraging questioning and engagement to allow their team members to bring their own opinions, observations, and expertise to the fore.

Collaborative leaders are confident in their own ideas but flexible enough to incorporate suggestions and input from their team. For other departments and external partners, such as customers and suppliers, they bring these other links in the chain into their planning process. 

Collaborative leaders are open and transparent about what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’re going about it, and invite others to do the same. Aligning across the chain by way of collaboration not only optimizes processes, but also builds an invaluable base of trust.

HOLISTIC

Good supply chain leaders don’t fall victim to silo-thinking. They understand supply chain is the link between a network of services, functions, and interests, and they assess and appreciate what is required at each stage of that journey. 

By developing a true end-to-end understanding of how supply chain gets a product from source to sold, they have a panoramic view of their business. A supply chain leader must be multi-dimensional — with operational, analytical, technological, and above all, relationship skills. 

For supply chain leaders to be Holistic, they must continually examine other areas, disciplines, skills, ideas, and people by networking with peers, reading books and articles, and sourcing insights from other fields that can add value to their own. 

They’re committed to lifelong learning.  And, as part of that learning, seek to foster diversity across their team – not only ethnicity and gender, but also age and experience. The wider and deeper the pool, the more talent they have to draw from.

ADAPTABLE

Adaptable can also be described as ‘actionable’. A supply chain leader needs to be both efficiently re-active in a crisis, and proactive to anticipate the possibility of future crises, as well as able to prepare mitigation strategies.

Supply chain leaders who are adaptable work towards a system that is resilient and agile enough to not only cope with crises, but one that can convert crisis into opportunity.   

Adaptable also means not being lulled by the calm and evenness of the day-to-day, but rather remaining constantly alert for gaps, flaws, failings, and loose connections.  And devising ways to minimize or eliminate these risks before they can wreak damage.

INFLUENTIAL

The best supply chain leaders are influential both up and down the management ladder. 

Within their own teams, they establish a connection, sharing personal stories that resonate with the character of their teammates and the nature of their work environment. This breaks down barriers and builds a common purpose. The supply chain’s mission is clearly and powerfully communicated, so the entire team understands not just the mission, but their individual roles within it.

Good supply chain leaders don’t micromanage – they empower their team members to take initiative within a recognized framework and encourage peer collaboration to find the best solutions. Through their own example, they demonstrate why there’s no reason the team can’t accomplish its goals and targets with the talent and knowledge it contains.   

Strong leadership is about telling the supply chain story in clear, understandable language. Painting in broad strokes, instead of fine details, using analogies, stories, and visuals rather than just numbers. Using data to show just how vital supply chain is to fulfilling the promise upon which business is built.  No matter who the audience, they must communicate, communicate, communicate.

NARRATIVE

Good supply chain leaders communicate vision through narrative. Why?  Because, no one is inspired by functions. What inspires people are stories.  So storytelling is perhaps the most important skill for a supply chain leader to master. 

When team members, partners and collaborators see themselves as part of a story that is bigger than any one individual or group, they not only buy into that narrative, but also become motivated to go beyond what they thought were their limits. And when leadership understands that supply chain is much more than simply numbers on a spreadsheet, it can be presented as a living, on-going story – a narrative that explains the lifeblood of their business. Then team members can relate to what that business is all about, and how they can contribute to where it is going.

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